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This summer I have fallen hard for tart fruits such as gooseberries and currants. I didn’t grow up eating either of them but here in Ontario, both grow prolifically. We recently planted both gooseberry and currant bushes in our yard. They’re still a year or two out from producing fruit but I thought I’d start figuring out ways to use these berries so that when the time comes, we’ll have plenty of ideas for the harvest.
One of the simplest ways to use any fruit is just to make compote — basically a lightly cooked, chunky fruit topping. I don’t really use a recipe for compote. Just toss some fruit in a pot with a little liquid and sugar to taste, and cook to desired consistency. Serve with oatmeal or yogurt; spoon it over pound cake or ice cream; or swirl it into these simple cheesecake bars. Delicious!
- I used red gooseberries for these bars. I image any kind would work, though the color contrast with the purple/red ones will be the most striking!
- Don’t have gooseberries? Feel free to substitute another berry in the compote or use a thick jam. Or just leave out the swirl for plain cheesecake bars!
- One key to a crack-free cheesecake is to not overmix your batter. I always use a food processor to mix cheesecake batter because it’s super fast and great at mixing without aerating; but you can also use a stand mixer or even just a whisk. Just remember that you’re not trying to beat air into the batter — just combine until smooth. It’s imperative to have all your ingredients at room temperature or you’re more likely to get lumps in your cheesecake.
- The second key to no-crack cheesecake is to bake low and slow and not overbake. For the cheesecake portion I bake at 275F and pull it out when the center is still a little wobbly. Also, cool the bars to room temperature completely before chilling in the fridge. Sudden temperature changes can cause cracks as well. Definitely don’t skip the chilling — this helps the bars set up completely and also makes them easy to slice.
Gooseberry Cheesecake Squares
Makes one 8×8″ pan
For the gooseberry compote:
- 200g fresh gooseberries (preferably red), tops and bottoms trimmed
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- 15g granulated sugar (to taste)
For the graham cracker crust:
- 175g graham cracker or chocolate cookie crumbs
- 12g light brown sugar (optional; can sub granulated)
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 56g unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake filling:
- 340g (1 1/2 blocks) full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature (I always use Philadelphia brand)
- 100g granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt (I always use Diamond Crystal)
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 120g sour cream, at room temperature
Make the gooseberry compote: Combine gooseberries, lemon juice, and sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring and smashing the berries constantly, until the berries release their juices and the mixture comes to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking until the juices thicken, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender (or regular blender) until smooth. Taste and add additional sugar if desired — I like to keep the compote on the tart side to balance out the rich cheesecake. Cool to room temperature. (You can make compote a few days in advance — store in the refrigerator until ready to use.)
Prepare the graham cracker crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with a rack in the middle. Line an 8×8 metal baking pan with foil or two pieces of criss-crossed parchment, leaving about 3 inches of overhang on two sides, and lightly grease.
Stir together the cracker crumbs, sugar, salt, and melted butter. The mixture should hold together if you squeeze it in your hand, but shouldn’t feel overly greasy. If the mixture doesn’t hold together, add more melted butter 1 teaspoon at a time until it does. If overly greasy, add more cracker crumbs, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you get the right texture.
Press the cookie crumbs into the bottom of the pan, using a measuring cup or shot glass to compact the crumbs firmly and evenly. Bake until just set, about 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack while you prepare the cheesecake filling.
Make the cheesecake filling: Lower the oven temperature to 275ºF. Combine the cream cheese, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined. Scrape down the sides, add the vanilla and lemon juice, and pulse until smooth. Add the sour cream and pulse until smooth. Scrape down the sides.
Add the eggs one at a time, pulsing after each just to combine. Scrape down the sides and fold the batter a few times to make sure it’s well combined. (Note: you can also use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment to mix this batter; mix on a low speed and scrape down the paddle often to keep the batter smooth and lump-free.)
Assemble the bars: Scrape about half the cheesecake batter over the prepared crust and smooth with an offset spatula. Use a small spoon to dollop on half the gooseberry compote (no need to swirl it in right now). Add the remaining cheesecake batter and smooth it carefully over the top. Dollop on the remaining compote and use a skewer or chopstick to swirl it in.
Bake the bars: Bake the cheesecake bars until the edges are set but the center is still a little wobbly, about 30-35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely to room temperature, then refrigerate uncovered until completely firm (at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight). To serve, use the parchment or foil handles to transfer the cheesecake to a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut into desired squares, wiping the blade clean after each cut. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.